Rand Paul advisor warns RNC: Getting rid of caucuses in 2016 means “nuclear war” with the base

posted at 6:01 pm on March 18, 2013 by Allahpundit

Gonna be a lot of blood on the floor when the next nominee is crowned.

Tucked in near the end of the 97-page report, formally known as The Growth and Opportunity Project, are less than four pages that amount to a political bombshell: the five-member panel urges halving the number of presidential primary debates in 2016 from 2012, creating a regional primary cluster after the traditional early states and holding primaries rather than caucuses or conventions.

Each of those steps would benefit a deep-pocketed candidate in the mold of Mitt Romney. That is, someone who doesn’t need the benefit of televised debates to get attention because he or she can afford TV ads; has the cash to air commercials and do other forms of voter contact in multiple big states at one time; and has more appeal with a broader swath of voters than the sort of ideologically-driven activists who typically attend caucuses and conventions…

Reaction was swift. Allies of potential 2016 hopefuls Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum, sensing a power play by the establishment-dominated panel, reacted angrily to recommendations they think are aimed at hurting candidates who do well in caucuses and conventions and need debates to get attention…

“Elimination of caucuses would mean nuclear war with the grassroots, social conservatives and [the] Ron Paul movement,” said [a "close Paul advisor"].

Bring it on, said some GOP leaders. “If Paul forces want ‘nuclear war’ over reducing [the number] of caucuses, let’s have it,” tweeted longtime GOP strategist Mike Murphy. “[The] key to [a] stronger party is more open primaries.”

Everyone understands the strategizing, right? I assume 90 percent of the readership does but here’s a quickie primer for that 10 percent that doesn’t watch the primaries closely. Caucuses favor candidates with intensely committed followers, even if their overall base of support is small. The caucus process takes much longer than simple ballot voting does so casual voters stay away while passionate supporters show up. That means overall turnout is way lower than in a primary, which in turn means that a dark horse candidate who lacks money and name recognition can pull a huge upset by mobilizing his fans. That’s how Huckabee won Iowa in 2008 and Santorum won in 2012, with Ron Paul a close third. Romney could have buried them all in ad money by swaying low-information casual voters in a statewide primary, but in a caucus system those voters simply aren’t going to endure the hassle of caucus night. Obama, who wasn’t quite the longshot that those three were, won the Democratic nomination that way in 2008 too. He pulled the upset in Iowa, which moved the Overton window by convincing doubters that Hillary could be beat. Then, because he was better organized than she was and had stronger grassroots support, he cleaned up in other caucus states, which gave him an ultimately insurmountable lead in delegates.

You can understand, then, why Santorum and Paul are upset at the thought of Iowa moving to a primary. Santorum, in particular, will need another upset in Iowa in 2016 to survive to South Carolina, and the only way he has any chance of that is if they stick with a caucus. Otherwise Rubio, Jindal, or whoever else will spend their way past him in a primary. Paul’s a more interesting case, just because it’s hard to see right now whether he’ll be a dark horse or a top-tier candidate in three years. His advisor reflexively favors a caucus because if there’s one thing the Paul family’s good at, it’s mobilizing a small band of extremely devoted fans to turn out. That’s why Ron was a juggernaut at straw polls, a serious threat in caucuses, and off the map in primaries dominated by casual/centrist Republicans. Rand’s already built more mainstream cred than his dad ever did, though, and is likely to be well funded between support from grassroots conservatives and from the famously generous Paul base. A primary wouldn’t instantly kill his chances the way it would Santorum’s, especially if mainstream conservatives are split several ways between people like Rubio, Jindal, or Christie. On the contrary, a caucus could hurt him by giving a social con candidate like Santorum or Huckabee a fighting chance to upset him, which would be a major buzzkill before New Hampshire. It’ll be fascinating to watch Paulworld’s feelings on the caucuses evolve or not evolve over the next two years depending upon how Rand’s stature in the party grows or shrinks. The more money and mainstream support he’s got, the more dangerous the caucuses become for him.

I prefer primaries, but check back with me if Jeb Bush jumps in, raises a few hundred million from the Bush machine, and looks set to stomp the field in a few weeks. Exit question: Who among the likely candidates would a “regional primary cluster” a la Super Tuesday favor in 2016? That’s a test, essentially, of name recognition and fundraising, as it limits the candidates’ opportunities for direct campaigning and turns things into an ad war to win low-information voters. Assume Jeb doesn’t run.


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Comment pages: 1 2

What do all these brands – Plymouth, Eagle, Oldsmobile, Saturn and Mercury – have in common? They all went through major rebranding programs. What else do they have in common? They all no longer exist.I worked for one of Chrysler’s agencies in the 1990s when they tried to re-brand Plymouth and Eagle. The psychographics for the Eagle Vision were unbelievable. The husband was an Ivy League grad and a corporate vice president. The wife got her degree from Northwestern and was president of the Junior League. The children were geniuses and the daughter was an 8-year old local concert pianist.If you remember the Eagle Vision, it was a more upscale Dodge Intrepid. Just as Chrysler was targeting Lexus, Infiniti and BMW owners who wouldn’t be caught dead in an Eagle Vision, the GOP establishment wants to target people who will never vote Republican.bw222 on March 18, 2013 at 11:10 PM

Reminds me of an engineer friend telling me that the product manager behind the pontiac aztec was a diversity hire from the bra industry and a nature lover.

AH_C on March 19, 2013 at 1:33 AM

That’s a test, essentially, of name recognition and fundraising, as it limits the candidates’ opportunities for direct campaigning and turns things into an ad war to win low-information voters.

Yet people still do not understand the importance of doing their own homework and thus buy into the propaganda the rich people publish.

America ALWAYS gets the government it deserves.

DannoJyd on March 19, 2013 at 5:49 AM

Most states don’t have caucuses – these states are primary driven. MN has both caucus and primary. Candidates are endorsed at convention w/ caucus elected delegates. IF someone wants to challenge a caucus winner (as the MN Dem Governor, Mark Dayton, did in 2010), then the caucus winner has to get out their people to vote in the primary.

Problems with the late convention date include:
1 – Federal election law that prohibits leading candidates from spending money until they are endorsed at a convention; regardless where you come down on Mitt Romney, the loss of being able to counter the lies spread about him hurt, big time.
2 – In MN we had our Dem party trash our R caucus-endorsed candidate in 2010. B/c of a late primary challenge to the R candidate (and the challenger never would have won), money and time and energy were wasted all summer, again.

Caucus problems
1 – MN actually replaced the primary system w/ the caucus system in the 1950′s. So, any state, could go either way.
2 – Caucuses are an entry point for new people.
3 – Caucuses can be stacked (Obama in TX) so assuming that only primaries can be stacked is ignoring the other potential problems.

I’m not sure if this RNC suggestion is a top-down move or something to let us start getting our act together sooner. To believe that caucuses will go, IMO, is foolish. But, states can change their procedures. MN has.

MN J on March 19, 2013 at 11:25 AM

What do all these brands – Plymouth, Eagle, Oldsmobile, Saturn and Mercury – have in common? They all went through major rebranding programs. What else do they have in common? They all no longer exist.I worked for one of Chrysler’s agencies in the 1990s when they tried to re-brand Plymouth and Eagle. The psychographics for the Eagle Vision were unbelievable. The husband was an Ivy League grad and a corporate vice president. The wife got her degree from Northwestern and was president of the Junior League. The children were geniuses and the daughter was an 8-year old local concert pianist.If you remember the Eagle Vision, it was a more upscale Dodge Intrepid. Just as Chrysler was targeting Lexus, Infiniti and BMW owners who wouldn’t be caught dead in an Eagle Vision, the GOP establishment wants to target people who will never vote Republican.bw222 on March 18, 2013 at 11:10 PM

Reminds me of an engineer friend telling me that the product manager behind the pontiac aztec was a diversity hire from the bra industry and a nature lover.

AH_C on March 19, 2013 at 1:33 AM

Thread-Winner BRILLIANT!!

williamg on March 19, 2013 at 1:28 PM

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